Public education alone can’t provide the skills training and learning opportunities that people need in the workforce today. As part of a Workday Rising Business Leader Forum on skilling to unlock workforce potential, Jon Kaplan, vice president of training and development at Discover Financial Services, said employers have an obligation to step in.
“I think the solution to so many of society’s ills lies with corporations starting to invest in their employees in ways they hadn’t before,” said Kaplan. “And the good news is that there’s an enormous return for shareholders.” Upskilling programs lower attrition and absenteeism and increase promotions, which saves costs in training and recruitment.
Jaime Fall, director of UpSkill America, part of the Economic Opportunities Program at the Aspen Institute, also participated in the forum. “People with frontline and entry-level jobs are struggling,” he said. “Unemployment is low, but wages have only seen a small increase. Employers are struggling to fill their skills needs.” To address this, Fall works with employers to get them thinking about the types of education, training, and development they can provide people so that they have the skills to advance in the workplace.
Kaplan and his company are on board. In late May, Discover launched a college tuition reimbursement program, and have already registered 500 employees. The goal, said Kaplan, is to register 1,500—and he thinks they’ll exceed it. “This is part of our talent strategy,” he said. “We believe that it helps us acquire the best talent; we believe that it helps us retain the best talent. It leaves the employees with the key to the middle class.”
Moderator Leighanne Levensaler, senior vice president, corporate strategy at Workday, asked Fall and Kaplan if these programs will continue to be successful if the unemployment rate increases. They both agreed that the need for upskilling is more than just a corporate trend.